• Home

How Heroin Tears Apart Families

By Jason Weinstein.
It's the shocking discovery any parent fears making.

"They said he had burglarized houses. I didn't understand and couldn't believe it because he closed the restaurant he worked at that night so it really didn't make sense to me. When I met with the Public Defender he said many of the things heroin addicts do don't make sense. That was my announcement my son was a heroin addict," said Alexis Pleus, Founder of Truth Pharm.

"His brother told me. He has two older brothers and one of them said, 'Mom, don't you see what is happening?' I said, 'What?' He said, 'Let me tell you.' He brought me a burnt spoon and some little bits of cotton and he says, 'Do you know what these things are?' I said, 'No'. He explained when I was away at work Sean was shooting up heroin in my house," said Swart.

"I actually found a syringe in the dryer that had fallen out of his pocket. I forced him to roll up the sleeves of his shirt and there were tracks on his arms," said Penny Stringfield.

While these women found out about their child's addiction in different ways they shared the common experience of having heroin tear their families apart.

"The loss of trust and the heartache, it's terrible to see what this has done to my son. His brothers love him but the trust is just shot," said Swart.

"There were many times people counseled us to kick Johnny out of the house. I knew we couldn't live with that," said Stringfield.

"Locks on bedroom doors, locks on the house, changed locks, controlling when he has access to his own home," said Swart.

"He would say, 'I'm a scumbag.' We would say, 'No, you're not a scumbag. You're addiction is a scummy disease and it makes you do things that you would never normally do but you are not a scumbag. You are our beloved child.' That's hard to say when someone is wreaking havoc in you home, stealing from you, lying all the time," said Stringfield.

All three mothers rode the roller coaster of rehab and relapse. Swart's son Sean is currently in long-term rehab to try to break a ten-year addiction. Pleus lost her oldest son Jeff to a ten-year addiction in August of 2014. Penny Stringfield lost her 24-year-old son Johnny in February.

"When Johnny was well or trying to get well and he was honest he would say, 'My full-time job is to get my fix and to make sure no one around me really knows what's going on,'" said Stringfield.

Pleus has founded Truth Pharm, a group dedicated to changing policy and erasing the stigma of heroin addiction. It's also created a tragic kinship.

"We keep discovering each other. Alexis, we've been friend for years. I did not know her son struggled with this. She did not know my son struggled with this," said Swart.

"Families feel safer talking about it and feel safer to come forward and say, 'Yes, my family member needs help and we're having a hard time getting it,'" said Pleus.

"She got the call that I've dreaded getting. We want our sons to live and thrive. But until we have a way to battle the heroin epidemic effectively we're going to lose our loved ones," said Swart.

Click Here for a comprehensive list of signs of heroin use.

****In Broome County, Jason Weinstein, Fox 40 HD News****